Acorn House Proposal

Site Context

Image of existing Acorn House building on Gray’s Inn Road and aerial image showing red line boundary
Aerial map showing Acorn House location highlighted in red

Acorn House is located within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area, in an area mainly comprising 18th century terrace housing built on the Swinton and Calthorpe Estates, with several larger institutional buildings along Gray’s Inn Road.

The wider Bloomsbury Conservation Area includes several Art Deco residential blocks of seven-nine storeys. Redevelopment in this area has been gradual, but there is a general consistency of height and materials.

The existing Acorn House building is a 7-storey office building occupying an L-shaped site. Built in c.1965, the façade has reached the end of its usable life. The external columns and thin external fabric are not sufficient to meet modern standards of thermal efficiency.

As part of the development proposals, Acorn House was designed to incorporate the following opportunities:

  • Affordable Social Housing – a mix of apartments for affordable social and intermediate rent
  • Affordable office space – flexible office space suitable for start up businesses with c.50 desk spaces
  • Retail at ground floor level – a small shop suitable for a local business
The site offers the opportunity to provide affordable housing in a significant central London location, which would bring the following benefits:
• More affordable homes than possible on the Belgrove House site
• Greater flexibility to deliver a varied mix of unit sizes, with potential to also deliver more family sized units
• Greater number of dual aspect units than could be achieved with an on-site housing proposal
• A landscaped playspace and community room in addition to private balconies or winter gardens
• Dedicated basement space to provide tenant facilities such as cycle parking and waste facilities
• Contributing to the regeneration of Gray’s Inn Road with a new high-quality building.

Detailed designs & views

The proposals for our redevelopment of Acorn House include:

Affordable Social Housing:

  • 33 new homes.
  • 100% of these would be Affordable – 60% Social Affordable Rent and 40% Intermediate Rent tenures.
  • 10% apartments to be Wheelchair Accessible.
  • Tenures mixed between floors.
  • Energy efficient homes.

Affordable Office Space.

  • C.500m2 of flexible office space suitable for start-up businesses with c.50 desk spaces.


  • Providing c.190m2 of retail unit space suitable for a local business.

The proposed new building will be part six, part nine storeys in height. The stepped down approach to the design is to respond to the different architectural conditions on Swinton St and Gray’s Inn Road.

The stepped massing responds to the context of the adjacent buildings. The building is deliberately lower than the adjacent Georgian terraces on Swinton Street. The taller volume facing Gray’s Inn Road is in keeping with taller civic and institutional buildings on Gray’s Inn Road. We feel that this is appropriate for the area and integral in delivering 33 affordable homes for the borough.

The affordable housing would be split across a policy compliant housing mix, with 60% of the affordable homes provided at Social Affordable Rent (set by Camden Council) and 40% as Intermediate Rent Tenures (in line with GLA household income caps).

It is important that the new Acorn House fosters a sense of community. An external playspace is proposed at level six and a community room with kitchenette and landscaped terrace for residents at level nine.

Key design considerations for Acorn House, including façade material and design elements

The majority of the proposed building at Acorn House will use brick. The building mass is articulated in a series of three horizontal layers that allow it to step down to Swinton Street. The brick will be carefully chosen and subtly changed in each of these layers of the new residential architecture. The building will also feature glazing for the use of balconies or winter gardens for the apartments, so that the spaces can be used throughout the seasons. There’s also careful detailing of infill panels, resulting in a rich palette of simple materials, built on the history of this area, providing innovative housing.

Key Views

View of proposed Acorn House looking north from Gray’s Inn Road

View of proposed Acorn House looking south from Gray’s Inn Road

Environment & Sustainability and Transport

Our development proposals will deliver the following environmental community benefits:

Whole life carbon approach

Use of natural and recycled materials where possible, potentially including materials from the existing building

Renewable Energy

Sustainable transport options

Urban Greening

Significantly improved public realm with new planting

Ambitious environmental credentials for the building targeting BREEAM, WELL and LEED benchmarking

Wherever possible, we have used design to limit loads and reduce the need for heating and ventilation.

Energy efficient Affordable Housing

As part of our commitment to delivering a whole life carbon approach, instead of using a centralised boiler system, a common option in many homes, Acorn House proposes to use a centralised Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) system. ASHPs consume less energy in use and reduce the volume of CO2 released into the atmosphere.


We are proposing 92 cycle spaces as part of the proposals for Acorn House, which will be located on the ground floor and basement level in a dedicated space for tenants. We are also not proposing any car parking spaces as the area benefits from excellent transport connections.

Delivery and servicing vehicles for Acorn House will stop in existing loading bays on Swinton Street.

Ground floor use

Sketch of proposed residential entrance on Swinton Street

Precedented image of flexible affordable workspace

A retail unit is located on the corner of Swinton Street and Gray’s Inn Road, an important local amenity. It is framed either side by the residential entrances and the new office accommodation. This will create an active frontage on both Swinton Street and Gray’s Inn Road.

Tenants of Acorn House will access the new Acorn House from Swinton Street, which will lead them to dedicated areas for waste, cycle storage and their own lift on the ground floor.

The office space will be accessed via a new entrance on Gray’s Inn Road, which will lead to a reception area before visitors lead into the main office space.

Floor plans

Floor plan of proposed ground floor at Acorn House

Floor plan of typical residential floor (levels 1 to 4)

Floor plan showing children’s playspace on level six and community room on level nine